Goya boycott: Farewell, Goya! That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment on social media after Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue on Thursday afternoon praised President Trump at a ceremony at the White House. Speaking at a Rose Garden ceremony, Unanue said, “We ‘re all truly fortunate to have a leader like President Trump who’s a builder at the same time.” He compared Trump to his grandfather, a Spanish immigrant who founded the business in 1936. A uproar erupted on social media all at once, under hashtags such as # Goyaway and # BoycottGoya.
Goya’s boycott is totally justifiable. Many Latinos are angry with Unanue and, in him too, they are sad and disappointed. His remarks show how CEOs can be out of contact with their primary customers, and their national mood.
Goya boycott: Goya Foods distributes more than 2,500 foods from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and their goods are distributed from bodegas to Walmart everywhere.
As such, the comments of Unanue at the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative of the White House reveal a staggering lack of awareness. His remarks on Trump have been insulting because Trump is notorious for scapegoating Latinos and muslims, the very communities that form the loyal customer base of Goya.
Trump began his campaign branding Mexican immigrants “rapists” in case anyone has forgotten. He left Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. He has sought to put an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the policy that protects immigrants brought as children to the United States from deportation. He has mocked influential Latinos, ranging from judges to reporters to elected officials. And Stephen Miller, who has privately promoted stories from white nationalists, is the chief architect of his immigration policies (including caging children).
Goya boycott: No wonder “Goya” trended on Facebook. Julian Castro, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Latino advocacy groups have all been critical of the comments made by Unanue. But it is not that they are following Goya, or that they are determined to take down the business. Instead they inspire Latinos to stand up for the ideals they believe in. If that means boycotting products that have been a staple of generations in Latino households, then so be it.
What is disappointing about this uproar is its being needless. As a private citizen, Unanue may have attended the White House function, or refused the opportunity to speak. He should have used more precise language to explain the president’s feelings. Then he committed what amounted to brand suicide, binding the storied business of his grandfather to a president considered to be a birther and a tyrant for ever.
There is also a pathos element in here. Latinos have a unique relationship with Goya Foods, because they love products from Goya. We remind people of a favorite recipe or tasty holiday meals for their grandmother. Goya ‘s products are literally a homelike taste for some immigrants. Practically every Latino household around the country will find them. So as word spread about the remarks of Unanue, many Latinos have felt a mixture of betrayal and sadness that a beloved brand is now being tarnished by a Trump association. This is a protest rooted in grief as much as it is rooted in anger and outrage.
Goya boycott: In a Friday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, Unanue defended his remarks, calling the backlash to his remarks “abolition of speech.” But no one is suppressing his speech; his words are widely spread in Latino communities. Unanue also noted that he has participated with the Obamas in nutrition initiatives and celebrations of the Hispanic Heritage Month. But, the Obamas are a far cry from the Trumps. Barack Obama never issued an impeachment. Michelle Obama never wore a jacket to visit the US-Mexico border saying, “I really don’t care. Do U?.” Trump, by comparison, has not skipped an opportunity to demonize immigrants.
True, Goya Foods runs a “Goya Gives” program and the company has donated millions of pounds of food around the world during times of natural disaster and need. The Goya website actually features a video showing how the firm is responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those, for sure, are invaluable efforts. Yet Unanue apparently passed on to the president reiterating how hard the pandemic is hitting Latinos, who have suffered disproportionately during this economic and health crisis. Instead, at a time when Latinos are actually dying due to the incompetence of the administration in not acting earlier on the coronavirus epidemic he gave him the highest praise.
Unanue just don’t get it. He has undermined his own business by heaping praise on President Trump and deeply disrespecting his Latino customers.
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